LIQUID SKULLS “Rituals” (ERR Recordings)

Liquid Skulls, aka Jimmy Spice from Little Rock, Arkansas, is a holdout from the short-lived chillwave scene, which bloomed in basements and bedrooms and apartments across the world in the halcyon days of 2009-2011 (roughly). For those of you who have forgotten about it, or for those of you who have decided that stupid genre depictions by the media (hey, I’m media!) are best left unremembered in the first place, let me give you a recap. Chillwave is kinda chill, kinda wavy, and mainly created with synths and drum machines. It’s pop music for solo goths. Or something along those lines.

So yeah, Liquid Skulls is a genre vet, and that’s OK – the freak flag is still flyin’ for ol’ Jimmy, and his synths and computer patches and programs remain dust free and in use. Which is great for all of us who thought chillwave got a bad rap (I’m an unabashed fan, so shut up), because Liquid Skulls never left the scene, and never compromised his vision. So here, on Rituals, Jimmy Spice’s new tape for Paris-based ERR Recordings, we get all the chiming analog synths, frigid atmospheres, and noir soundscapes you might come to expect from the long-running project. It’s like MillionYoung and Mickey Mickey Rourke had a baby and named it according to one of their dark overlords, Lord Liquid Skull … or, maybe that’s not how it happened. Still, there were clearly some underhanded deeds that brought about this music’s recording … some, rituals, perhaps? Maybe not.

What I really like about this tape is the mood it conveys without overwhelming the listener with clichéd moves or redundant lyrics. At least I don’t think so – I can’t understand the lyrics (they’re cloaked in effects), and that’s always a good thing for me (for those who don’t know, I can get by without lyrics at all, thanks very much). The tunes are emotional without devolving into “emo,” and there’s an undercurrent that the ritualistic behavior implied by the title is both a nod to the everyday weirdness of one’s own life (and a backlash against it) and a more supernatural, intense, and yearning ritualistic idea to remove oneself from that path. As silly as perhaps the idea of “rituals” are, they’re certainly ingrained into the human psyche, and they run the gamut from normal to weird, depending on perspective and perception. Jimmy Spice makes both “normal” and “weird” music here, marrying the conventional to the odd, the unusual. He’s the Winona Ryder of Beetlejuice persevering years later after the world has moved on, but in touch with something other than the everyday. Except instead of actual ghosts, it’s late-00s synthesizer music. I’m cool with that!

--Ryan Masteller